Words in the Dust – Book Review
In the tradition of SHABANU, DAUGHTER OF THE WIND and THE BREADWINNER, a beautiful debut about a daughter of Afghanistan discovering new friends and opportunities after the defeat of the Taliban.
Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Zulaikha knows all will be provided for her–“Inshallah,” God willing.
Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to her village, promising not just new opportunities and dangers, but surgery to fix her face. These changes could mean a whole new life for Zulaikha–but can she dare to hope they’ll come true?
I had the pleasure of hearing Trent Reedy speak at Anderson’s Young Adult Literature Conference in September. I was moved by his story and the perspective he brings to his writing. As a former member of the Iowa National Guard who served in Afghanistan, he has had experiences that few other authors, particularly Young Adult authors, have had. Words in the Dust is based on encounters Reedy had while in Afghanistan.
I highly recommend this book for anyone (including adults) who seeks a greater understanding of life for those who live outside of the main cities of Afghanistan. Several issues of Afghan life are explored, including medical care, education, social and family structures, arranged marriages, and more. Perhaps the most important issue Reedy delves into is the lack of women’s rights, even now in the 21st century. In support, Reedy is donating ten percent of his proceeds to Women for Afghan Women, an organization that advocates for the rights of girls and women in Afghanistan. I admired him when I met him, and this just makes me like him even more!
Children in the United States rarely realize the extent of disparities of children’s lives across the globe. This book has been suggested for children as young as third grade, and I have recommended it as a read aloud to some of my teacher friends (although I would advise previewing the book yourself first to make sure you are comfortable with all of the parts you are reading aloud). Reedy offers a snapshot of a life that is drastically different from our own, and one that should be explored further. The book has earned several awards including:
- Today Show Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids Pick, May 2011
- Christopher Award, 2011
- Cybils Award Nominee for Middle Grade Fiction, 2011
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Honor Book, 2012
- ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012
- Society of Midland Authors Award for Children’s Fiction, 2012
- Parents’ Choice Recommendation Seal, 2012
- Amelia Bloomer Project list, 2012
Not only is Words in the Dust an excellent and quick read, but Reedy is also an author to be admired. Let’s support him on this mission!